Beth E. Brant (Indian: Degonwadonti) (born 1941 Melvindale, Michigan or in the Tyendinaga reservation in Ontario) is a Mohawk writer. She is known as a theorist ("writing as witness") who has had a profound effect on literary activism in the Americas, as the producer of a substantial body of work in short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and as editor of groundbreaking anthologies.
Beth Brant is the daughter of a Scots-Irish American mother and a Mohawk father. She grew up with her father’s family, on the Bay of Quinte Mohawk in Ontario. Most of her life she stayed in the border region of Ontario, Canada and Michigan, USA.
She married at 17, and gave birth to three daughters. After she divorced her violent, alcoholic husband, she got a job to support her family through daily life. She didn’t finish her education. At the age of 33, she came out as a lesbian. In 1981 she began to write and to edit anthologies, dramatically building up indigenous literature by providing both showcase and courageous example. Her non-academic approach creates a sense of possibility and empowerment for the ordinary person to give voice to experience, to the world experienced and witnessed, and to honour the voices of both self and other, using all of these as bases for both world change and literary production. Between 1989 and 1990 she lectured at the University of British Columbia, and in 1993 at the University of Toronto. She is a very popular teacher of indigenous and non-indigenous creative writers in both Canada and the United States.
Brant characterizes herself as a "lesbian mother and grandmother, a Taurus, ascendant Scorpio, a dropout and a woman of the working class".
In 1984 and 1986 she was awarded the Creative Writing Award of the Michigan Council for the Arts, in 1991 the National Endowment for the Arts and 1992 the Canada Council Award in Creative Writing.
Brant has been ill for years, suffering from several ailments. She has no further aspirations of writing.
She now lives quietly in Redford, MI with her grandson, Nathanael Brant German, and his lovely fiance and daughter. German says about his grandmother, "She is an outstanding example of power, intelligence and the true meaning of god-given-talent. I only wish that more people would strive to live their lives as my grandmother has."
Brant did not begin her writing career until the age of forty. She recalls an encounter with Eagle at that time, as she and her lover drove through Mohawk Valley: "He swooped in front of our car... and sat in a tree, his wings folded so gracefully, his magnificent head gleaming in the October afternoon sun... He stared at me for minutes, maybe hours, maybe a thousand years. I knew I had received a message to write." In her narratives, she broaches the issues that link many aspects of life, e.g. nationality and sexuality, caste and class, often focused on dramatic experiences with racism and sexism, with great compassion. Through fiction and nonfictional means, she challenges her readers to move from a greater place of truth, both in history and in daily life, and to take responsibility for the role each person plays moment by moment in both receiving and regenerating both aspects of collective reality.
She and her former life partner Denise co-founded Turtle Grandmother, an archive about North American Indian women and a clearinghouse for subjects by Indian women.
- Mohawk Trail, 1985, ISBN 0-932379-02-8
- A Gathering of Spirit, anthology of North American Indian women, 1988, ISBN 0-932379-55-9
- Food & Spirits, narratives, 1991, ISBN 0-932379-93-1
- Writing as Witness, Essay & Talk, 1994, ISBN 0-88961-200-5
- I'll Sing `til the Day I Die, conversations Tyendinaga elders, 1995, ISBN 0-9698064-2-6
- Day, Frances Ann (2000). Lesbian and gay voices: An annotated bibliography and guide to literature for children and young adults. Greenwood Press, quoting from "To Be Or Not To Be Was Never the Question.
- Day, Frances Ann (2000). Lesbian and gay voices: An annotated bibliography and guide to literature for children and young adults. Greenwood Press.